Does obesity affect breast cancer recurrence and survival? A new study suggests the answer is yes.
The US National Cancer Institute sponsored treatment trials to determine whether there is a link between increasing body fat and breast cancer recurrence and survival. The results revealed that women who were overweight or considered obese at the time of their cancer diagnosis have a higher risk of recurrence as well as a higher risk of dying after a recurrence compared to women who are thinner and healthier.
Dr. Joseph Sparano of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine’s Montefiore Medical Center explains: “The results of this analysis clearly establish a relation between higher BMI at the time of breast cancer diagnosis and higher risk of recurrence and death, specifically in hormone receptor-positive, HER-2 positive disease, which accounts for about two-thirds of all breast cancers.”
He also addresses whether immediate health and lifestyle changes after being diagnosed can help lower the risk. “What remains uncertain, however, is whether dietary and lifestyle interventions resulting in weight loss after a breast cancer diagnosis could substantially reduce the risk of recurrence.”
The study involved 6,885 women with Stage 1 to Stage 3 breast cancer and normal heart, kidney, liver and bone marrow function.
Medical oncologist at Toronto Mount Sinai Hospital, Dr. Pamela Goodwin, who researches the impact of lifestyle factors on breast cancer patient survival rates also weighed in on the news. She notes that previous studies have also suggested a link between obesity and poor outcomes for other types of breast cancer patients as well. The research reveals that “high insulin levels accompanying obesity encourage tumour growth and increase the likeliness of breast cancer recurrence.”
Goodwin says a healthy lifestyle that includes proper exercise and a balanced diet can help keep weight in an ideal range and avoid unwanted circumstances in the unfortunate event of a diagnosis.